We had had an interesting morning on the Middle Fork Trail of the Willamette River, beginning the job of building a railing for the new bridge over Indian Creek, a free flowing tributary of the Middle Fork. We found our own materials, Red cedar, in the nearby woods, stripped the bark off it and then took the bare logs to the bridge area to eventually place as one of the smaller posts or a larger railing.  

We split into two groups, one to work on the trail tread, the other to search for hopefully nearby cedar, where we could strip and carry them a short distance. Red Cedar is not heavy, about 27 lb per cubic foot dry, a lot more wet, which these were. We had to fell the trees, take the limbs off them, then it was possible to move the definitely heavy log from the woods to the trail, where we made precise measurements, cutting the logs into four foot lengths for posts. Then it was time to start de-barking.

I had at my disposal various types of scrapers, knives, axes, other sharp implements to slice through the bark to the fascia over the cambium layer, then cutting through the fascia to the cambium itself, what we wanted exposed. I didn’t know that trees had fascia like we do.

I hadn’t seen tree felling in thirty years, back when I spent a season as a wilderness canoe ranger in the Boundary Waters, and we used crosscut saws to fell trees that were potential dangers to campsites. I remembered to look up at the branches of the tree we were going to fell to see where most of the weight was, so we could predict where it would fall. Fortunately, many of the Crew had backgrounds with the Park Service, Forest Service, or BLM (Bureau of Land Management), and they were certified fellers.  One of us put pink ribbon on cedars we were to cut, we had one sawyer, and I was the swamper, working with the cutter and doing the limbing.  Cutting is a lot different from bucking on the ground. Tree falls, limbing, or removing the limbs is necessary, and instead of pushing logs off the trail, we brought logs to the trail, in order to carry them to the bridge.

Limbing a fallen Red cedar

It was a busy morning, with several crossings of the incomplete bridge with no rails, fast flowing water 12-15 feet below. I didn’t want to slip, and I was a more afraid than I thought I should be. I certainly did not want to be the person leaning out over the stream putting the posts in.  

Incomplete bridge over Indian Creek. We still need to learn how it got put there.

A little after noon, later than I like, since I have been up since 5, we broke for lunch. I was on the opposite side of the stream from where others were eating, and while I had my lunch in my pack, it was too shady and cool on the side of the stream where I had been working.  I made yet another crossing of the bridge, again watching my footing carefully, and walked up the small rise on the other side. I didn’t see anybody eating until I was about 50 yards from the stream, when I saw three of the Crew near the trail. They were in shade eating their lunch, but a nearby brilliant green area between two logs, in full sunlight, caught my attention. I headed into the woods towards it.

I really should have stayed away and left the area alone, but I told myself I would be careful. This was a 25-50 square foot area of thick moss, a few inches thick.  It was damp, but nothing was going pass through my rubberized work clothes. I put my gray foam pad on the moss against one of the logs and sat down. 

What relief. I sank into the moss, carefully extended my legs, being careful not to kick any of the moss loose, took off my hardhat and leaned back looking up at the sky.  The sun was warm, the stream could be clearly heard, the conversations a few yards away were inaudible, and I took a long drink before beginning my lunch. I have several parts of my lunch, beginning with a sandwich and a half, followed by raisins, some German chocolate a friend sent me, occasionally some Russian chocolate another sends mw for my birthday, some Lindt’s that I buy here, a protein bar, and half an apple I bought from Detering Orchards up in Linn County last October. It takes me a good 20 minutes, emphasis on good, to go through all of this, staring at the sky, the trees, the clouds, even at one plane that went through a small clear gap in the branches, heading to Portland or Seattle.

After putting my lunch bag away and taking another drink, I reversed the sitting down process, carefully lifting my feet and putting them under me.  When I stood up.  I put my hardhat on, carefully lifted the pack and put in on. The moss was compressed, but it would come right back. Nothing was obviously dug up. I took one step on it, and the next step I was off.  It was obvious I had been there, but it looked like it would do fine.

A week later. The other plants are Oregon grape, which is an early bloomer with yellow flowers.

I don’t know what got into me. I am usually much more careful about moss, which takes years to grow and seconds to destroy.  This was a special place.  I bowed my head and apologized to the plants for their putting up with my compression, and slowly walked back to the trail where the others had just finished their lunch.

The following week, we would come back, but I ate lunch by the trail, my back against a tree.  I sat on bare ground. The mossy area looked good, and I left it alone.

Scraping the cedar log

About 17 of the 20 posts we will need.

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